Mammoth Cave National Park   Leave a comment

Mammoth Cave NP 00Where Is It: 90 miles south of Louisville, KY.

The Birth: Private citizen founded the Mammoth Cave National Park Association in 1926, and the Park was authorized later that year. Donated funds were used to purchase some land, but some tracts were acquired by the right of eminent domain, with thousands of people forcibly relocated as landowners were paid what some considered to be inadequate sums. That controversy is still remembered as a land grab in the region. The National Park Service began administration of the park in 1936, with the official Park dedication on July 1, 1941.

It Happened Here: The Kentucky Cave Wars:

The difficulties of farming life in the hardscrabble, poor soil of the cave country influenced local owners of smaller nearby caves to see opportunities for commercial exploitation, particularly given the success of Mammoth Cave as a tourist attraction. The “Kentucky Cave Wars” were a period of bitter competition between local cave owners for tourist money. Broad tactics of deception were used to lure visitors away from their intended destination to other private show caves. Misleading signs were placed along the roads leading to the Mammoth Cave. A typical strategy during the early days of automobile travel involved representatives (known as “cappers”) of other private show caves hopping aboard a tourist’s car’s running board, and leading the passengers to believe that Mammoth Cave was closed, quarantined, caved in or otherwise inaccessible.

Size: 52,830 acres, with over 400 miles of surveyed underground passages. This is, by far, the largest cave in the world.

# Visitors: 508,054 in 2012. Attendance peaks in July, and is very low in January/February.

Plants: Spring wildflowers are abundant above ground in the Spring. You can find Coral Root Orchid, Yellow Lady Slipper, Spring Beauty, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Wild Hyacinth, Trillium, Wood Poppy, Twinleaf, Yellow Corydalis, Violets, Trout Lily, Bluebells, May-Apple, Wild Geranium, Fire Pink, Larkspur, Squirrel Corn, Crested Dwarf Iris and many more.

Animals: Mammoth Cave National Park is home to over 70 threatened, endangered or state-listed species. These include birds, crustaceans, fish, gastropods, insects, mammals, mussels, plants and reptiles.

Choices: From

The tours vary greatly; pick ones to fit your time and stamina. All require you to purchase a ticket. Reservations are strongly advised in summer, on holidays, and on spring and fall weekends. For a half-day visit, you might take the Historic Tour, which combines geology with Mammoth’s rich history, or the challenging Introduction to Caving Tour. If you plan to stay longer, consider the fairly strenuous four-mile Grand Avenue Tour (there are three steep hills, each nearly 90 feet high). To enjoy the caves safely and comfortably, wear shoes with nonskid soles and take a jacket. Complete your underground trips with a river trip or a walk on the River Styx Spring Trail. The least arduous cave tour (0.25 mile, 75 minutes) is the Frozen Niagara Tour. A modified version of the tour has only six steps each way (plus an optional 49) and is designed for visitors who want a short and easy trip. The toughest challenge is the five-mile, six-hour, belly-crawling Wild Cave Tour, offered daily in summer and weekends year-round. By reservation.

Fees: The cost of a cave tour ranges from $5 to $48. Campsites are $17-40 per night. There is no Park entrance fee.

Staying There: Lodging is available in the Mammoth Cave Hotel with 62 rooms between the main hotel and the nearby Sunset Lodge. There are also cottages available. More than 100 campsites are available in the Park as well.

Contact Info:

P.O. Box 7
1 Mammoth Cave Parkway
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259

Current Issues: The alcohol’s got to go in 2013:

Too much of a good thing, and not enough park staff, mean alcohol sales at Mammoth Cave National Park will be scaled back.

Superintendent Sarah Craighead says the sale of beer and wine at the Caver’s Campstore within the park will end at close of business on Saturday, August 17. Sale of wine and beer by the glass will continue at Mammoth Cave Hotel.

“We have noticed a dramatic increase in alcohol-related law enforcement incidents,” said Superintendent Craighead. “This was a nice service for our visitors, but with our reduced staff, because of the federal budget sequester, we must manage our time carefully. If an activity disrupts park visitors and causes more work, it must go.”

Sale of packaged beer and wine began March 9, 2012. Law enforcement records at Mammoth Cave indicate that alcohol-related incidents totaled 12 in 2011, 47 in 2012, and 40 as of June 25 in 2013.

Don’t Miss This: The Wild Tour is very well reviewed, but not for the faint of heart. You must be an adult, and you must be fit and ready for a 6-hour climbing/crawling experience. Intro to Caving is suited for families with children (6 and up). It’s a 3-hour experience.


National Park Service: Mammoth Cave National Park Mammoth Cave Mammoth Cave

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